Frederick Schmidt: The Last Enemy


At my brother's funeral just over three years ago, the pastor officiating at the service brought us together in the church's library and laid down the law. "There isn't going to be any grieving today. We are going to celebrate Dave' life."

He meant well.

But then - and even now - I wanted to grab him by the lapels and say, "That's easy for you to say." Candidly, I'm sure the unedited, in-the-moment version was far harsher, but let's leave it at that. I had things to celebrate, but I had a boatload of grieving to do.

In conversations about my book about my brother's journey with brain cancer, called[The Dave Test](, I've often observed that the strength of someone's faith cannot be measured by the way in which they are unmoved by death. Life, in its full-blooded, God-given form, is a gift. As Henri Nouwen once observed, the more deeply in touch with that life we are, the clearer it is that death is a dark contradiction to that experience.

This is why the New Testament describes death as "the last enemy." It is also why a person of deep faith is also likely to grieve.

But death is not just our enemy. It is God's enemy and it is the last enemy. It is not just the final, painful place that spoils all of our dreams, ends our days on earth, and robs us of our relationships. It is an apparent contradiction to God's claim to be God, God's claim to have made us in God's own image, God's claim to be the Lord of life.

That realization doesn't make our struggle with death less important. It doesn't reduce the importance of our own fear of mortality to something trivial. It roots that struggle in a larger, cosmic drama.

We are made in God's image. We are God's viceroys - God's beloved children - the bearers of God's decision to give us and the creation around us life. And our plight is embraced by a larger drama around that promise.

If you have ever felt lost in your struggles, if you have ever felt overwhelmed by your fear, or if you have ever felt overwhelmed by the isolation that comes with a sense of life's tenuous and fragile nature, know this: God has skin in the game.  Not just in the claim to be God, but in the person of the one who is Immanuel, God with us, in it, who makes good on that claim.

From Frederick's blog at